Educational achievement in the remote northeastern province of Ratanank Kiri is the lowest is Cambodia, particularly among ethnic minorities and girls. In addition to a lack of facilities and teachers, responsibilities such as child-minding keep many children, especially girls, from going to school and accessing education. Community teachers like Mr Yoeung Ning, from the Tampuen ethnic minority, are working to help children to access bilingual education – in their language and Khmer – through community schools.
Despite having a very low level of education himself, Mr Ning was selected in 2003 by the school board and elders of his village to become a community teacher and received training through CARE’s HCEP program. This program establishes community-run primary schools and provides a bilingual approach to education, to ensure preservation of local languages as well as opportunities to access government education in the national language (Khmer).
As part of this, a Teacher Training program enables local teachers to teach the children in their village and the surrounding communities. This means that children are taught by people they know and respect, such as Mr Ning, while gaining a good education. CARE also has early childhood education programs so that girls who have the responsibilities of looking after children are able to attend class at primary school.
Although the life of a community teacher may seem straightforward, Mr Ning and other teachers make a huge impact - working to change the future for children in indigenous communities, especially girls. ‘In my opinion, working as a teacher is good, since we can educate our children for our village and our community,’ says Mr Ning.
Primary school enrollment and attendance have increased substantially in since the start of the HCEP program. Many primary school graduates now attend high school in the district town and a few have even finished teacher training college in a neighboring province. Mr Ning credits education with opening new doors for him and for his village.